The Yellow Admiral
THE YELLOW ADMIRAL follows directly from THE COMMODORE (1995) which ended with Captain Jack Aubrey enriched once more, this time by capturing slave-ships, freeing the slaves on them, and collecting the bounty money paid by the British government. This following novel begins with Aubrey once more the prey to lawyers representing ship-owners claiming that the seizures were illegal. Aubrey is defended, in only a half-hearted way, by the British admiralty, some members of which he has antagonized for both professional and personal reasons. Professionally, he is open to charges of disobeying orders. Personally, his position as a landowner involves him in a disputed “enclosure” of common land, which he resists on behalf of the countrypeople who would be dispossessed, but which would make a fortune for a rich naval colleague and neighbor, whose uncle is unfortunately Aubrey’s commanding officer.
In the background lurk other threats, such as the seizure of his friend Stephen Maturin’s Spanish fortune by the Spanish government; and the unearthing by his prying mother-in-law of a cache of letters testifying to a long-past affair. The center of the novel is a “mill” or bare-knuckle prizefight between Aubrey’s coxswain Barrett Bonden and the head gamekeeper of his naval neighbor and opponent. With the superstition traditional to seamen, Aubrey views this as an omen for the future; but his champion Bonden is beaten and badly injured, and after that his luck does indeed turn for the worse. Though Aubrey wins the enclosure battle, he runs into increasing enmity from his superior officer, the admiralty, and even his wife, while over his head there hangs the threat of being “yellowed,” that is, of being promoted to admiral as is his right, but being told simultaneously that the admiralty has no further employment for him, so that he will never command.
None of these issues is entirely resolved in this eighteenth of a planned series of twenty novels, but the reader’s interest is kept up both in the historical situation and in an ever-widening gallery of characters.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. XCIII, September 15, 1996, p. 222.
Boston Globe. October 23, 1996, p. D5.
The Christian Science Monitor. October 24, 1996, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 20, 1996, p. 3.
The New York Times Book Review. CI, November 3, 1996, p. 9.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLIII, September 16, 1996, p. 70.
USA Today. November 21, 1996, p. D7.
The Washington Post. November 6, 1996, p. F4.